Monday, July 15, 2013

Hiking the Chief: 2 of 3

I was a man on a mission. With the sun glistening from a cloudless sky, conditions were perfect to tackle the famous Stawamus Chief, which towers over the town of Squamish, and offers one of the most popular — and strenuous — hikes in BC.

To warm up, I visited neighbouring Shannon Falls, the third tallest in BC. Rounding a bend, a view of the entire 335-m waterfall appeared with massive cascades of water tumbling down the cliff. The viewing area reverberated from the immense power of the seething water and an enormous roar rolled over the forest. I felt very small.

Next, the Chief. Within minutes, I was soaked in sweat. It was hard work. The path seemed almost vertical. Lactic acid bubbled in my thighs and my boots felt like anvils. I settled into a slow, rhythmic pace and after a while, surprise, I discovered my aging body was adjusting. With gasping breath I began to enjoy the primordial west-coast rain forest as I headed for the second of three peaks. Rough-hewn granite steps and wooden stairs led endlessly higher, past cliffs and boulders and gullies, all immersed in towering cedars and pines. Here and there, roots lay ominously on the path like tangles of snakes. Whenever the path approached a stream, an urgent roar filled the air. Frequently, I passed groups heading downhill.

At one spot, a giant isolated boulder perched in a clearing with magnificent views onto snow-capped mountains. I chatted with a couple from Switzerland. “The mountains here are so much more rugged and wild than back home,” they enthused. A rocky gully led to the final approach. My legs were like mush. On a series of steep pitches my fingers clutched and strained on the fixed, metal chains.

Finally, I was at the top and my aching thighs were instantly forgotten. In the clear azure sky I could see forever. Log booms floated in the estuary far below. Tiny people perched on peak one. Squamish was laid out in geometric precision and grand, towering mountains swept the northern horizon. The hard slog was well rewarded.

I descended on protesting legs, and soon was ensconced in the comfort of the Howe Sound Brew Pub. We recounted adventures while sampling MegaDestroyer Licorice Stout (10% alcohol!), Wee Beastie Scotch Ale and Devils Elbow IPA. Great names, great beer and a great day!

Wanna Hike the Chief?
- Howe Sound Inn & Brewing Company:

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